Rankin’s knowledge of the creative mind is hard to dispute. A photographer, editor and director – as well as founder of creative services company RANKIN CREATIVE – he has used his own creativity and mobilized that of others to create campaigns for brands such as Rolls Royce, Unilever and Samsonite. He’s created high-profile projects for charities including Women’s Aid and Macmillan, and shot music videos for Miley Cyrus, Rita Ora and Kelis.
As a photographer, Rankin’s portfolio ranges from portraiture to documentary. He shot the Rolling Stones, David Bowie, Kate Moss, Kendall Jenner and Queen Elizabeth II to name a few. As a publisher, Rankin co-founded flagship magazine Dazed & Confused with Jefferson Hack in 1991, and has since published AnOther and AnOther Man, alongside more than 40 books and the biannual print and digital fashion and culture platform. , Hunger.
Here, he discusses how to nurture a creative mind and considers the nuanced role technology can play in creativity in the future.
Q> What do you think makes a “creative mind”?
Rankin> You have to be curious, a little contrarian, and willing to challenge the status quo.
If you’re a freelancer, you need to have all of those things and plan your schedule and motivate yourself. Creatives must therefore be resilient. It’s not something everyone can learn, you just have to see the big picture every time you get rejected.
It’s a big request.
Q> Do you think the creative mind is something you are born with, or something that is learned, developed and nurtured over time?
Rankin> The digital revolution means many people have access to tools that allow them to feel creative. Everyone has a smartphone, so they think they’re Scorsese or Coppola.
They believe they are creative, because they are creators.
I think you can nurture creativity: all audiences have the ability to be creative. But it can also sap the talent of people who are inherently creative.
Q> Is there anything specific that inspires your creativity?
Rankin> Boredom is at the root of it.
I have to disconnect from everything, except maybe books. Books don’t take up the same space as watching something or being online. They inspire instead of distract.
Creativity doesn’t usually come when I’m at work. It comes in between: in the shower, doing the dishes, driving the car. This is where my brain is really interesting, when I’m not trying to entertain myself. Then two new things collide, and I find this fortuitous moment for creativity.
Q> How do you think the modern world is changing what creativity looks like, if any?
Rankin> It’s as if a hand grenade had exploded in our culture: it’s almost a revolution.
The democratization of photography and cinema means that people who never had access to them now have access to them, which is fascinating. I have to keep telling filmmakers to get on TikTok because you can learn things from TikTok.
But I’m surprised when people don’t know their history of cinema, art or photography. As a young photographer, my peers would have thought I was a joke if I hadn’t.
You must learn from both periods. You must have one foot in the past and one foot in the future: then you are the midpoint.
We’ve probably got another two to three years, then Web3 and mixed reality will kick in, and we’ll lose even more history! But really creative people always want to learn, so I hope they rediscover it.
It’s like any kind of revolution.
Q> Have you seen any work that you think illustrates how the creative mind sees things differently?
Rankin> Much of the work done by creators (and unfortunately some creators and brands) has a very similar tone of voice. It’s trending based on what they’ve seen on social platforms.
But with real photography and real photographers, taking a photo and making a photo are very different things. So if you were to take photographers like Annie Leibovitz, Nadav Kander or humbly myself; if you look at someone we’ve all photographed, you’ll notice a similarity in intent, but the way we all execute is so different.
You have to fight for that kind of creativity these days. For the time and space to take a picture, not just to take one. To create something new, don’t just imitate what’s trendy or a simple button on an app.
Q> How do you think a technology like GENIE allows creativity to thrive, if at all?
Rankin> You might think I’m negative about technology, but I’m actually pretty excited about it. Technology like GENIE empowers people to take their destiny into their own hands.
I have a creative services company, RANKIN CREATIVE and I know that some clients need me to be a guardian of their brand. Bread and butter advertising doesn’t necessarily need this, but we’re talking about brands that want to grow. Especially since the public demands that brands look more like people.
Such technology is therefore exciting for creatives and customers.